Lately, I’ve begun to feel an internal, innate pressure building in relation to my creative output, a mental shift towards gritty, hard-nosed production. When I think about myself as a writer, I’ve begun to picture myself in a leather helmet and a baggy sweater, holding my ten-year old laptop under my arm, gritting my teeth as a I charge head on into the Distractions of Life.
You see, I have certain literary goals, but I also have a toddler who has developed the ability to walk, climb, and throw tantrums, and who requires constant attention anytime he isn’t sleeping. I have a full-time, year-round job as a composition and literature instructor that requires me to spend much of my non-classroom time grading student writing. I am a Grantland-level sports fan, and I occasionally feel the need to exercise or play a video game. Of course I also have to help clean the house and go along grocery shopping, as well as attend to the various other items on my husbandly to-do list. I’m compelled by a sense of responsibility to try and do it all, and sometimes I feel like a Thoreauvian nightmare, but I know my situation is not unique: Time for inspired, uninterrupted creative work is virtually non-existent unless you live deliberately to create it, and for me, acting on that recognition has been the most significant progress I’ve made as a writer.
On my best days, I keep the TV off completely and spend the time I might traditionally use watching sports or sitcoms or surfing the net to commit to writing instead, having finally seen those things for what they are. On a more normal day, I’ve learned to write in a loud room as toddler chaos unravels the house around me. I now will myself to open a Word file and start re-reading my own work, even for just a few minutes, and you know what often happens? I end up poking around at revisions, and often enough that initial poking around turns into an hour or more of Progress. Every keystroke, deletion, revision, or addition is all Progress, and no matter what happens, I know I’m ahead of where I was before.
I’m not perfect, and I still allow myself a video game here and there, but those youthful days when time management was distinctly less important than it is to me now are over, never to return, and I finally understand that the perfect conditions will probably never arise. To feel the way I do about writing and to end up arranging my life around anything else, or to allow my life to become arranged around anything else, would be a personal betrayal, so I am resolved to power on. I must struggle through and against, and I must overcome Life. It’s three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust for me, and I’ve never felt more like a writer.